In recent months, it seems as though Ken Ham is focusing more than usual on responding to critics — all of whom are Christians, as far as I know — who suggest his organization’s obsession with a particular view of the first 11 chapters of Genesis is detrimental to the gospel message and the faith in general.
In an interview last month with the Bad Christian podcast, I said something similar about young-earth groups like Ham’s Answers in Genesis: “There are some groups and individuals out there that have a very large following for which [evolution] is a really big issue and they say that [not believing in it] is a real central component of what it means to be a real Christian, or a Bible-believing Christian. And I think that does kind of hurt the gospel to an extent.”
I didn’t mention Ham or AiG by name, but I was certainly thinking of them. Of course, they are far from the only ones. There are countless groups around the world that, for various and often inexplicable reasons, have made it their top priority to attack evolution and promote the idea that the universe is younger than the invention of beer. Ham and AiG just happen to be the most well-known, prominent and cash-rich among their diverse sea of competitors.
Ham doesn’t appreciate when people like me or Mike McHargue accuse him of teaching that the gospel necessitates young-earth creationism. In a post on his blog last week, Ham took issue with several of my statements. Not surprisingly, Ham’s post is little more than the cherry-picking of a quote here and there as an opportunity to trot out his same three or four tired old talking points about “the authority of God’s word” and “observational science vs. historical science” and so on.
But I would like to share just a few of his comments, and I would encourage you to click over and read the entirety of Ham’s criticism of me, and decide for yourself if you think it’s valid.
I would also like to share my opinion of how Ham brilliantly and subtly skews and slants everything he writes and quotes from toward his perspective and away from those he deems to be his opponents. Say what you will about him (and I’ve said my share), but the man is as gifted a spinmeister as any big-time D.C. publicist, and he knows his audience like the back of his evolved fin — I mean, hand.
The Christian Post recently reported on a podcast that featured GodofEvolution.com creator Tyler Francke. (Please note the first eight minutes of the podcast are extremely vulgar and the entire podcast contains offensive language. Because this podcast received exposure in Christian media, I had one of our researchers listen to it. After receiving a report on the vulgar nature of part of the discussion, I would not advise any of you to actually listen to this podcast. The fact that we have to give such a warning speaks volumes about the attitudes of those involved in this podcast.)
Ham’s first paragraph. See how he wastes no time in piling on the fear and trying to draw a sharp contrast between “good Christians” like him and us. After a brief introductory note, he somehow deems it necessary to dive into a four-sentence disclaimer warning his readers about our “extremely vulgar” and “offensive” conversation. (For the record, the only criticism I’ve heard from people who actually listened to the podcast was that I was “too polite.” I suppose I wouldn’t be that suprised if civility digusts Ken Ham, especially when it comes from a “compromising Christian” like myself.) In so doing, he seems to betray exactly how infantile he believes his grown audience to be — such that they can’t possibly be trusted to determine for themselves what media they would like to listen to. Notice, also, how he tries to cast aspersions on me and my “attitude,” though I was not involved in the segment he found so objectionable, and indeed, was as unaware of it as anyone else until the whole podcast was released.
Tyler Francke explains that he considers himself to be an “evangelical, born-again Christian” and that he believes the Bible is true. He and the podcast hosts make the point that biblical creation is not a salvation issue. Now, I would like to point out that I agree with Francke that the creation/evolution debate is not a salvation issue. Like I’ve said before, salvation is dependent on faith in Christ Jesus alone and not on your view of origins.
In a segment of his article subtitled “Evolution Is an Attack on God’s Word,” Ham claims that he agrees with me that “the creation/evolution debate is not a salvation issue” (though those who aggressively police Ham’s Facebook page apparently have no problem letting his fans post comments such as, “Creation and the gospel are inseparable,” and “Creation is essential to the gospel”). The problem is that, while Ham and his organization give lip service to the idea that someone could disagree with them and still squeak into heaven, they give every other indication that a Christian who accepts evolution is a horrible travesty. They say disagreeing with them makes you a “compromising Christian,” who doesn’t acccept the authority of God’s word (what Christian would want to do that?). They say it is a “slippery slope,” which leads to rejecting Christ’s nature and resurrection, and eventually, full-on atheism. They teach that the reason the gospel is true is — not that Christ is risen and he lives — but that the earth is only about 6,000 years old (which leads to the perfectly reasonable but disturbing inverse: If the idea that the earth is 6,000 years old is not true, then neither is the gospel).
These are guilt-laden, emotionally charged arguments. Essentially, they are saying, “I mean, you can be a Christian and believe in evolution, you’re just not a very good Christian.”
But this doesn’t mean that the debate is a “non-central issue.” It’s an issue that is central to the very gospel because it’s an attack on the authority of God’s Word—from which we get the gospel message! It’s a question of whose authority you’re going to accept: man’s ever-changing opinions or God’s authoritative Word?
Except that the vast majority of Christians who accept evolution maintain just as high a view of scripture as any other believer. C.S. Lewis rejected the literal interpretation of the creation accounts, and was arguably one of the most effective and influential Christian apologists of the past 100 years. Billy Graham, father of modern evangelicalism, rejected the literal interpretation of the creation accounts, and brought the gospel before millions of fresh ears. Princeton theologian B.B. Warfield rejected the literal interpretation of the creation accounts, and was among the staunchest and most prominent defenders of biblical inerrancy of his day. Indeed, Christian theologians and church fathers going back at least as far as Origen and Augustine in the third and fourth centuries (about a millennium and a half before Darwin, in other words) saw reason to acribe non-literal, allegorical meaning to Genesis.
Ham is obfuscating the real issue. It is not simply a question of “whose authority you’re going to accept.” It is a question of whether you’re going to believe the creation accounts are — like all of Christ’s parables, and much of Psalms, Proverbs and the books of the prophets, including Revelation — theologically and morally true stories cloaked in allegory and metaphor, or the only time in all literature that a talking animal (whose ability to speak is not explicitly described as a miracle) and trees with magical powers were indicative of a historical account rather than a symbolic one.
Now, Francke claims to be a Christian, and I have no reason to doubt his testimony
but, in the area of origins, he clearly has chosen to accept fallible man over God’s infallible Word.
Actually, I have simply chosen to disagree with him over the correct interpretation of God’s infallible Word.
That’s the real issue in the debate!
Francke stated, “Evolution can be everything that the scientific evidence indicates that it is and that Christianity can be everything that the Bible says it is and should be and that those two do not need to come into any kind of conflict.” But what he failed to tell his listeners is that evolution and the account of creation in Genesis are completely and utterly in conflict with one another. Evolution teaches that all life evolved slowly over millions of years; Genesis teaches everything was created in six, literal 24-hour days. Evolution has one kind of organism giving rise to another kind, but Genesis states everything was created to reproduce “according to its kind.” Evolution requires death and disease being around for millions of years, but according to Genesis death arrived after the Fall as a punishment for sin. Evolution places certain land animals before birds; Genesis has birds before land animals. Evolution describes mankind as the descendant of an ape-like creature, whereas in Genesis man was specially created by God from the dust and woman from his side (as referred to in the New Testament also). Despite saying multiple times that there is no conflict between evolution and the Bible, Francke did not address even one of these theological problems!
If any of the Bad Christian hosts had asked me to address these “theological problems,” I would have been happy to do so. It’s actually quite simple: I believe the first few chapters in God’s word were meant to teach theology, not history or science, therefore they do not and cannot conflict with what the evidence in God’s creation indicates about history or science.
What he fails to understand is the difference between two kinds of science: observational and historical. Observational science is the kind of science that we can test, observe, and repeat—its what gives us space shuttles and medical advancements. Historical science deals with the past and cannot be tested, repeated, or observed.
Right. The only way we can do science at all is because God created a law-governed, rational universe, but we can’t trust the evidence of the past, because God may have ignored and completely contradicted the laws that govern the universe when he was designing and creating the universe.
What few people know is that, Creation Museum attendance notwithstanding, where Ham has really made his money is in the legal profession. His historical/observational science argument has worked miracles for even the most seemingly dead-to-rights guilty defendants and have made his counsel a hot commodity. “Were you there?” Ham has asked countless juries and — unable to answer in the affirmative — each one has had no choice but to toss all that useless forensic “evidence” and police “investigation,” and let his clients walk free.
In all seriousness, I’m glad Ken Ham listened to (or, rather, ordered “one of his researchers” to listen to) and responded to my interview with the hosts of Bad Christian. I see it as an opportunity for some valuable dialogue. And though I took this opportunity to respond to some of Ham’s claims, my primary reason for writing this is to invite him, or any representative of Answers in Genesis, to a dialogue with me about evolution, creation, the gospel and the proper interpretation of Genesis.
Obviously, we both agree that the gospel is a very important message — as far as I’m concerned, the most important message the world has ever seen. So surely, if one of us is doing disservice to the gospel, it would be in both of our best interests to dialogue on the matter and get things straightened out.
I have no doubt that Mr. Ham and his staff are very busy, what with the ongoing construction of their Ark Encounter theme park, but what an opportunity this would be for them: to speak directly not just to me, but to the entire GOE community, and demonstrate how our views supposedly “compromise” the authority of God’s word!
I look forward to hearing his response.